By Ellora MacPherson, Chief Investment Officer at Harbour
Following the recent ‘Freedom Day’ announcement and the loosening of the Covid 19 restrictions, many businesses are preparing for employees to return to the office following more than a year of home working. As businesses (and employees) attempt to return to normality, the competition for recruits has intensified.
A recent Times report demonstrates that, for example, law firms are battling increasingly hard to attract and retain talented graduates. However, this war for talent is not exclusive to the legal industry, and many other sectors are also now working harder than ever to impress and attract the newly qualified.
One of the most pronounced effects of the pandemic has been to rapidly accelerate the move to more flexible working. Almost overnight many of the pre-pandemic ways of working became outdated (or impossible). The most successful businesses during the pandemic were able to respond rapidly and adapt their employee engagement strategies accordingly, all while maintaining workplace satisfaction and continuing to grow. It was essential that they did so, not least given that over forty percent of the global workforce thought about leaving their jobs this past year. Arguably, being able to rapidly change tack in this manner is the only way to succeed in uncertain times and will become ever more important as we emerge from the crisis.
Whilst it is crucial to move forward with confidence in the post covid working world by hiring top talent, it is also essential to develop and retain existing talent, both of which are achieved by having a great workplace culture.
Great workplace culture, employee collaboration and communication are critical when developing high performing teams. It is also important for leaders to tailor their approach to the individual needs of their employees and to lead by example. All of which are detailed below.
Cultivate a great workplace culture
High-performance demands an excellent workplace culture. To achieve high employee performance during the pandemic, many successful managers were able to draw on an already strong workplace culture to support and motivate their teams. This, in turn, helped to encourage employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Businesses should dedicate significant time and resources to building and maintaining a positive culture within their business and to supporting their workforce’s well-being. This does not have to put a strain on the budget or demand a large internal working group. If employers take the time to genuinely invest in the well-being of their workforce, a positive culture will inevitably grow and thrive.
Strong workplace relationships are also an essential element of a positive workplace culture. When employees barely know their colleagues and rarely interact, it is not possible for a strong culture to grow. Therefore, employers need to encourage the nurturing of social connections by providing employees with opportunities for social interactions through events and team building activities.
Build a shared sense of purpose and goals to foster employee collaboration
Those businesses that share the same sense of purpose and goals as their employees perform especially well in a time of crisis as they can adapt rapidly. This is because in these businesses there is a shared understanding of the business’ core values and mission. To build a shared sense of purpose, a business must encourage employee participation and welcome debate. It should also seek to understand each of their employees career goals to ensure they develop with the changing needs of a business.
In turn, this leads employees to feel motivated and committed to the business.
The pandemic has demonstrated how quickly businesses and employees alike can have had to adapt to changes in the workplace. Therefore, the goals should be kept current and frequently reviewed to ensure they continue to align with the business’ and its employees’ values. Certainly, businesses should be re-considering whether their goals and values remain aligned with those of their employees as we return to the office. For example, post-Covid, there is a more significant focus on flexibility of working practices than ever before, and this may mean the goals around remote working need to be updated.
Define your communication strategy
Communication is key and should not be underestimated. Employers should define their communication strategy and make it visible. Employees expect accurate, authoritative information. They also need transparency. Providing this creates a culture of trust in the workplace.
The pandemic forced many people to work remotely which put a strain on working relationships at almost all businesses. However, by developing new methods to ensure that good lines of communication throughout the business were maintained, the best performing business ensured that these relationships could be preserved and strengthened. It has also been shown that managers who invest time and energy into delivering clear lines of communication build better trust with employees. In turn, this helps to increase morale and productivity.
Tailor your approach
Prior to the pandemic, too often talent management was viewed as being a standard checklist of procedures. Covid 19 and the considerable and varied additional support employers have been required to offer to employees in order to maintain wellbeing has highlighted the need to nurture talent on a case-by-case basis. As we move on from the pandemic and return to office life, businesses must continue to adapt their goals and mindset, and realise that there is no one size fits all approach to developing a strong workplace culture and developing talent. Businesses need to tailor-make career paths and plans to suit each individual if they are to truly get the most out of their employees.
Lead by example
The way any leader acts during difficult times is crucial and can have a lasting effect on workplace culture and team morale.
During the pandemic, employees looked to leaders for assurances, to inspire confidence and to provide solutions. To sustain a high performing team during a crisis, it is crucial for leaders to be proactive, show consistency in their messaging and continually adapt their response and behaviours to the current situation. In a period of uncertainty, the workforce depends on a leader for direction and drive.
When building a high performing team, leaders must also look to the future. All crises eventually come to an end and are followed by recovery and reignition. A good leader will also have a plan for this.
The importance of workplace culture cannot be understated; it is the key to ensuring your team does not just survive crises but thrives.